June 16, 2011 / 8:04 PM / 8 years ago

Saudi crown prince plans U.S. medical tests

RIYADH, June 16 (Reuters) - Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz will visit the United States soon for medical tests, state media said on Thursday of the octogenarian, who was abroad for treatment and rest for much of the past two years.

Prince Sultan, who is also the defence minister of the world’s top oil exporter, will leave the kingdom on Saturday for a “private holiday”, and medical tests in the United States, state media said in a brief report.

Prince Sultan, who is about 86, had returned home in November from Morocco where he had spent about three months following unspecified medical treatment in the United States.

Western diplomats had said the prince was coming home then to avoid a power vacuum after it was announced that King Abdullah would go to the United States for medical treatment.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with no elected parliament. It is the world’s largest oil exporter and has long been an ally of the United States in the Middle East.

Islamists linked to al Qaeda launched a failed campaign of violence to destabilise the ruling family from 2003 to 2006.

To avoid a power struggle, King Abdullah, one year older than the Crown Prince, has set up an “allegiance council” of sons and grandsons of the kingdom’s founder to vote on future kings and their heirs.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef is poised to step in if anything happens to indispose both Abdullah and Sultan after the king appointed him second deputy prime minister in 2009 — a move that puts him in a strong position to one day take over.

Prince Sultan had an intestinal cyst removed in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and he visited the Swiss city of Geneva in 2008 for what were described as routine medical tests. (Editing by Jon Boyle)

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